Here are Top 5 Cat Diseases You Should Know About

As cat lovers and enthusiasts, we all want our pets to have perfect health all the time. Unfortunately, though, we know that this cannot be the case. Cats, like humans, get sick.

Unlike humans, cats can't tell us when they feel ill or if their illness is serious. Most felines tend to be skittish and have a strong hiding instinct when they don't feel well, further complicating matters. Therefore, as pet owners, we have to know what cat diseases are mostly benign and which ones require a vet trip.

Without further ado, here are the top five cat diseases you need to know!

Cancer Is One of the Top Cat Diseases

Unfortunately, cancer is just as prevalent in cats as it is in humans. The most common cancer is lymphosarcoma, which directly links to the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Fortunately, there is a vaccine for FeLV that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

Cancer typically manifests itself through one or more common symptoms. You might notice lumps, swelling, sores, abnormal discharge, bad breath, weight loss, or cat vomiting. One of the most common signs of cancer is a lack of appetite and lack of energy. If it feels like your cat is "wasting away," a vet trip is almost always a smart idea!


Like humans, diabetes manifests itself in cats in one of two ways. The first (type I diabetes) is when the cat cannot produce any insulin. The second form (type II diabetes) is where the cat doesn't respond correctly to the insulin hormone.

With cats leading a more sedentary lifestyle (especially indoor ones!), obesity and diabetes has become a more common cat disease.

Diabetes usually manifests itself through a change in appetite and unexplained weight loss. The body cannot use the sugar in the bloodstream because the insulin mechanism isn't working correctly. So your cat's body will signal to eat, but since it can't use the sugar, the body will burn fat for energy, thereby causing your cat to lose weight. You'll often see an increase in water consumption and urination.

The good news is that diabetes is treatable in cats. It requires a needle with insulin every day, but your pet should lead a high quality of life with proper management.

Another Common Cat Disease: Heartworm

Heartworms are one cat parasite that owners could encounter - especially if they live in an area populated with many mosquitos. Despite the name, heartworms mostly affect the lungs. Unfortunately, your cat can sometimes have a severe immune reaction once these worms set up shop in your cat's heart. 

It's worth noting that there is no cure for heartworm disease. However, the good news is that most cats survive with love, care, and general support.

Signs that your cat may have a heartworm infection include coughing, breathing difficulties, loss of appetite, weight loss, and cat vomiting. You may also notice your cat feels much more tired than usual.

Upper Respiratory Infection

Your feline's upper respiratory area is a potential breeding ground for bacteria. This area can sometimes become infected and, when it does, your cat will appear sick. The vast majority of these infections are due to the feline calicivirus and the feline herpesvirus.

If your cat has an upper respiratory infection, you will notice the following symptoms: sneezing, congestion, coughing, runny nose, fever (potentially), rapid breathing, eye squinting or rubbing, and potentially gagging. Most cats recover from these infections with minimal intervention. However, to be on the safe side, if you suspect your pet has an upper respiratory infection, you should see a vet!


Rabies is not a particularly common disease, but it's worth mentioning on this list because of its grim prognosis and the importance of pet owners to recognize the symptoms. Rabies is close to 100% fatal. There have been isolated reports where one or two cats or people have survived this disease, but, statistically-speaking, rabies has a virtual 100% fatality rate.

Fortunately, there is a vaccine for rabies, and if you have an outdoor cat, you should get one. In some jurisdictions in the US, it's the law to get one. If you suspect your pet has received a bite from a rabid animal, put on gloves and immediately take your cat to the vet. They will help guide you on the next steps.

Animals with rabies won't show symptoms initially. With time, they'll become much more aggressive, lose their appetite, have a strong desire to bite, experience seizures, and eventually, cats with this disease will die.

Monitor for These Five Cat Diseases

Most of the cat diseases you'll experience will be one of the ones above. Of course, other diseases like feline AIDS or FeLV, but the above conditions are some of the most common and most impactful on your pet. When caring for your cat, be sure to watch out for these symptoms.

Ultimately, when it comes to your feline friend, trust your instincts! If you think something is off with them, please give your vet a call!

Why is my cat throwing up?

There are numerous reasons why a cat might throw up, ranging from something relatively benign like having a hairball to something severe like having cancer. It's often near impossible to diagnose exactly why your cat is vomiting online. If you notice your pet vomiting with some frequency (more than three times) and cannot seem to keep food down, you should take your pet to a vet ASAP.

How do cats get worms?

Most of the time, cats get worms by "coming into contact with fleas, eggs, or infected particles in feces." Worms can happen in both indoor and outdoor cats. Cats can even get worms through indirect contact (where they pick up worms because a household member picked something up when they went outside and passed it to your cat).

Can humans get worms from cats?

Yes, it is possible to get worms from cats, but the risk is minimal. However, this usually comes from direct contact with contaminated feces. In fact, you'd typically have to ingest parasite-laden feces to contract worms from an animal. Therefore, while it is possible to get worms from your cat, the risk is negligible with even basic hygiene practices.

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Written by Leo Roux

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